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Monday, March 20, 2017

Hello, Hudson!

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Woodland Park Zoo

Handsome pup! Hudson, an arctic fox and Woodland Park Zoo ambassador animal, shows off his finest pose.

When it comes to enchanting creatures, it’s hard to find a more charming species than the arctic fox. Seemingly pulled straight from a fairy tale, these captivating canines are incredibly tough and inhabit some of the most frigid habitat. One little fox in particular is already getting quite a lot of attention as his handsome mug graces the cover of our Spring membership magazine, MyZoo. 

Starting this spring, and even more-so this summer, you'll have the opportunity to meet a host of incredible creatures during our Ambassador Animals programs at thAlvord Broadleaf and Wildlife theaters. Depending on how his training goes, Hudson will be one of them, giving guests the chance to see some of his awesomely Arctic adaptations such as leaping, pouncing and being entirely silent on his padded paws. 

Resourceful, energetic and smart, this fox can adapt to any season and extreme environments. In the wild, arctic foxes are opportunistic and omnivorous feeders; they will eat virtually anything edible. Small mammals make up their preferred summer diet, but they also eat plants, bird eggs, insects and fish. Winter diets include marine mammals, birds, seals, invertebrates and carrion. They also eat berries and seaweed. 

We asked Regina Smith, one of Hudson's dedicated keepers and trainers, to give us the scoop on this little snowball.

Born: Great Bend Zoo and Raptor Center, May 20, 2016

Favorite things: Heavy duty dog squeaky toys, cardboard paper towel rolls and lightweight cardboard boxes (that have squeaky toys hidden inside).

Favorite treats: Dog kibble, mixed veggies (except one*), silverside fish and meatballs!

Least favorite treats: *Lima beans

Favorite activity: Sneaking up on his keepers and then running away at top speed when we try to catch him.

Where does Hudson hang out when he is not visiting with guests or training? If Hudson is not participating in a training session, he is usually curled up in one of his outdoor runs keeping an eye on what zoo staff and volunteers are doing. Hudson most often chooses to sleep next to a small stump.

Arctic foxes have extremely long and bushy tails that muffle the sounds made by their bodies crossing terrain. They also have incredible hearing and wide, front-facing ears, which allow them to locate the precise position of their prey beneath the snow. When an arctic fox hears its next meal under the snowpack, it leaps into the air and pounces, breaking through the layer of snow right onto the prey beneath.
Tell us a bit about Hudson: As an Ambassador Animal, Hudson does not live on exhibit; his role will be to give zoo guests the opportunity to have an up-close encounter with an arctic fox and hopefully an opportunity to watch him do some natural behaviors during a stage program. Hudson is very playful, intelligent, and is always ready to interact (aka have fun) with his keepers. He seems shy at first with new people, but quickly warms up to them— especially if they have treats for him!

Is he especially bonded to one of his keepers? That’s a hard question! I think I have the closest relationship with him, but it may be due to the fact that I was able to work with him when he first arrived. Hudson does well with all his keepers, but when we are asking him for new behaviors or ones that make him more nervous, he is more willing to try them with me.

What type of training has he received? As you will see, Hudson is a smart fox and a quick learner. He responds to target and clicker cues and can play follow-the-keeper or stand on a scale to be weighed. He loves to show off his signature arctic fox pounce!

Does he hang with any of the other Ambassador Animals? Hudson’s neighbors are Edna the chicken, Sky√°ana the porcupine, Lucy the raccoon, Calvin the opossum and Blueberry the hornbill.

Adorable level: 10

While many mammals hibernate during the winter, the arctic fox remains active throughout the frigid months. Their physical characteristics of superb insulation with fur and fat, combined with a stocky body shape enable the arctic fox to conserve body heat. During winters, their densely furred paws prevent heat loss through their feet. 
They appear, and disappear, into the snowy landscape. This seemingly magical creature, beloved by many and celebrated in indigenous folklore around the North, is a reminder of nature’s incredible ability to thrive. This summer, you'll get a chance to meet Hudson and learn about his wild counterparts and their amazing ability to live in some of the harshest landscapes on earth.

Snow day! Winter wonder: Arctic foxes have a tremendous tolerance for cold. Their metabolic rate only starts to increase at -58° Fahrenheit and they only start to shiver when temperatures reach -94° Fahrenheit!

You may already know that temperatures in the arctic fox’s native range are rising at twice the rate of the rest of the globe. Reduced sea ice, melting permafrost and rising sea levels are all signs of a warming trend in the Arctic. These trends threaten all species who make their home on the ice including polar bears, wolves, narwhal, walrus, whales, caribou, many sea birds, plankton and the arctic fox. 

The good news is that you can do something about it just by making small changes at home. Look for ways to reduce your carbon footprint by consuming sustainable resources, educating your family and friends about eco-friendly solutions for transportation and travel, adjust your thermostat, buy local, plug in compact florescent bulbs and unplug your gadgets! 

These small actions may seem simple, but just think, if each WPZ member household did just one action a month, that would be 43,000 steps closer to a healthy arctic landscape.

Special thanks to our generous donors for their support of the Alvord Broadleaf Theater and Wildlife Theater. 

Ambassador Animals and raptor programs made possible by support from: Rick and Nancy Alvord, Al Buckingham, Chevron Corporation, The Hanlon Family, Ben and Ginny Holtman in memory of Jack Holtman, Kenneth and SaSa Kirkpatrick, Darinee and Scott Louvau, D.V. & Ida McEachern Charitable Trust, Julia and Adam Ryan, The Sunderland Foundation and anonymous.
Meet Hudson and friends this summer

Thanks to our generous donors, you'll be seeing more of Hudson in our Ambassador Animals programs this summer. Over the years, guests have watched the impressive flying and hunting skills of birds of prey at the zoo’s Raptor Center. This summer, a diverse cast of ambassador animals will be added to the up-close, animal experience, Earn Your Wings, including pot-bellied pigs Annabelle and Bailey along with a rotating cast of guest appearances by flamingo chicks Paco and Pluma, arctic fox Hudson, raccoon Lucy, a skunk and others. Seating at the new Wildlife Theater will triple in a newly renovated visitor viewing area, better vistas will be offered and the sound system will be enhanced.

The new Friends by Nature program at the Alvord Broadleaf Theater offers zoo-goers an opportunity to meet a variety of ambassador animals including a hornbill, porcupine, and kookaburra through engaging, up-close experiences that incite empathy and the desire to take action for wildlife. 

Celebrate Hudson the arctic fox with a ZooParent adoption special, just $69: www.zoo.org/zooparent
If you just can't wait to meet Hudson, you can always adopt a ZooParent in his likeness. When you make a symbolic adoption, your gift directly supports conservation efforts at the zoo and around the world.

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